To not feed the games people play yet keep your relationship intact
Looking for guidance, insight, life experience...and advice
All of us play mind games, emotional or ego-based at some point or the other at different levels of intensity and pervasiveness, with different kind of people, for different kinds of pay-offs. How does one refuse that pay-off yet maintain the depth and communication of that relationship?
Games are always a reflection of a negative pay-off never an active solution. How does one move past that territory, skip the pay-off yet keep the relationship level?
My sister-in-law and I have a very deep bond and a special friendship. She is younger than me by a few years and looks upto me in certain ways. We are pretty similar in the emotional and self-image issues we have as well, hence we really relate to each other closely. Beyond this there is a very strong sense of respect for each other as well as love. But one thing that totally differentiates us from each other is attitudes. While mine is rather positive and solution-seeking (that is when I am not indulging in my own victim-thinking and games) and hers is negative and revenge-seeking. I am rather open and open-ended in my thinking and she has a tendency to have a lot of expectations from others which to me seem unrealistic. (Im a Sag and she is a Scorp, quite typical both of us at that :)) And so on.
We used to have a pretty much objective and solution-seeking equation when it came to our own worlds and our issues. But lately I have been seeing that she is sub-consciously forcing me to play emotional games and feed her with momentary sympathy and 'oh my poor dear' balonies. When I refuse to do that she gets upset, clams up and blames me for being judgemental. The communication suffers and so does our closeness. I have tried my best to remain open and objective about it but the more she does it the more I do tend to judge her and am unable to keep the relationship balanced. (I may add that basically I am not a judgemental person and rarely do I really judge and act on it. Of course I do that at times but that's not my nature largely.)
I am also scared that in some way by refusing to respond by feeding her self-pity or victim consciousness I may be alienating her even more from reality. She doesn't have close friends, her brother (my husband) and I are the only people she shares things with. I am constantly see-sawing between being 'motherly' with her, a role she desperately tries to fit me in, or a sane close friend, something that we have a lot of in our relationship.
Another thing that really worries me is that her removed-from-reality thinking is making her more and more self-involved. She doesn't actively want to heal or look for ways to get out of her situation how muchever unhappy it might make her. Since I have been in that self-inflicted pain space I know the dynamics of
it and do not try and enter that zone to force her out of it. She will come out as and when she decides to. But I do not know how to play my role the best because I see myself as the only link she may have to some semblance of happiness with herself and the world ultimately. I want to help her but she makes it very difficult for me to help her. And what she wants from me I refuse to give, not only because its not right for her but because as I person I loathe games like these and generally cut off people who try to do this with me. But she is too precious and important to arbitrarily cut-off.
Also, I sense there is a lesson in this for me. I just don't know where to look for it.
What is her birthdate?
Thank you for the response Captain. Her birthdate is October 26th 1983.
You and your sister-in-law's relationship - the indications here are that you two are more like real sisters than sisters-in-law. You often need each other more than you will admit. Your relationship presents a magnetic, even charismatic, exterior that can make you the centre of attention in your social or family groups. Strongly protective, your relationship will present a unified front against the world when threatened. When you are alone together however, you rarely see eye-to-eye and may seek to best each other at every turn, just like real siblings. Highly competitive in the verbal, physical and mental arenas, you two are a classic study in attack and defense with you, Saggigirl, deftly wheeling and delivering lightning strokes and your SIL astutely parrying them and going on the counterattack. Getting things out in the open is a remarkably healthy trait in this relationship but you two must put limits on your emotional outbursts which can turn ugly and destructive very quickly. This is a complex, paradoxical relationship. It's sometimes difficult to tell whether you two are close or distant, sympathetic or cold, allies or enemies. Perhaps it is your very confidence in your unity that permits you to have such sharp disagreements, since you both know in your hearts that your relationship is ultimately unassailable and will withstand practically anything. Battering each other becomes a way of toughening and strengthening the relationship. You two can express genuine afffection in a variety of subtle ways including sarcasm, irony and downright insult, which makes the relationship difficult for others to read. There are limits to your strength however so don't be so sure of the relationship's survival. instead, tone down the rhetoric, mute your competitiveness, and control your outbursts. If you see your SIL is playing a 'game', refuse to join in. Be the one with more control. Tell yourself that it's better to stay friends than to try and beat her. Winning isn't everything - just walk away when you feel like striking back.
Your SIL alone - This person is gifted with a unique ability to articulate her ideas and inspirations, yet she may nevertheless have a hard time until she abandons some of her more defensive and suspicious attitudes, and cultivates the lighter aspects of her nature. Her verbal ability can manifest in a tendency to air her judgments and tout her grievances rather too much. Her perceptions of 'truth' are often reflections of her narrow and rather distrustful worldview. Though she undoubtedly does best when left to her own creative devices and pursuits, she will find her road much less rocky if she allows herself a greater degree of openness, lightheartedness, and daily interactions with those of like mind. She is naturally inquisitive about other people's business, but doesn't like to give away her own feelings and motivations too easily. Yet once she better identifies and develops her own ideas and talents and learns to share them with the world, she can find great fulfillment on her lifepath. By being less judgmental and critical of others in the interest of cooperation and fairness, her relationships will improve and people will want to listen to her grand schemes and visions.
Thank you Captain, everything you say resonates strongly. Yes, we do feel a sisterly bond with each other and are largely seen as 'inseparable' in both our families. We are extremely protective of each other but I had not seen the ping-pong we keep playing as some sort of competition or sibling rivalry. It is amazing what terming it right can do to finding the right solution.
Ever since I have read your words I am trying to remove myself from the 'competitive' equation. That has helped me being more sensitive and open to her and it is a bit of a relief for me.
However, the 'games' I am concerned about stem from something a little deeper. I do refuse to be a part of them when I sense them but, that brings a distance, she reacting in a semi-upset and disappointed way. As you say, I am too confident about our relationship to worry that this will affect it. But I am worried about the constant abrasive-ness that surfaces from time to time and while I agree that it does arise from our constant up-manship, it also has to do with her.
I am concerned about her negativity and how much pain she carries with her. Her perception of the world and inner reality worry me because they are not who she 'is' but just an outcome of a rather difficult childhood and some wrong learnings she has picked up. On my part, I try to help her to see that and overcome it. She doesn't quite like it too much but on the contrary does ask for it too. She keeps see-sawing between 'just sharing' and 'looking for solutions' while I am beginning to think that both are actually just fronts for getting sympathy and wallowing in self-pity. Should I totally stop trying to help or suggest solutions or even remotely hint at her perceptions needing tweaking? But when I do that I find both of us drifting apart, as though me feeding her self-pity and she deriving that motherly sort of complete warmth from me is the only form in which our relationship can survive. That is what really worries me.
She competes with you (and others) so that - if she thinks she has won out over you - she feels better about herself. But the feeling never lasts because it is an outside thing and not a feeling of security that comes from inside as a result of being secure in her own worth. This is why it is important for her that you don't play her games - it is just continuing a cycle of temporary outer triumph that doesn't penetrate to her core or make much difference to how she feels about herself. She needs to do things with her life that really make her feel worthy and effective, achieving personal triumphs that will last permanently.
Saggigirl, I would suggest that you ask your SIL questions in a sympathetic way, rather than suggest solutions. Do what therapists do. This way you'll show her that you are interested, while making her find her own solution. At the same time she can't resent you for being "judgemental", she can't reject your solution out of desire to "win", and ultimately she will be forced to come up with a solution of her own, which is what's needed. And most importantly, don't let it destract you from taking care of your own life. As they say, help is a sunny side of control. It makes us, "helpers" feel in control, which is also kind of a game.
Captain and VS, I somehow missed your replies.
Captain - I understand what you say and recognise her need to prove her own worth in her own eyes. I am afraid she is becoming more and more negative and vindictive in her approach to the world. This negativity is eating into her but she is consumed by it and I am unable to get through to her. I avoid playing her games but then she withdraws into herself, reaching out for me only when she wants sympathy. I want to help her rise above her negativity but lately its so violent that I fear being singed and prefer staying away. Not that she lashes out at me directly but her very view of the world is too violent and unforgiving for me to listen to and hence I tend to avoid communication with her completely. Do you think there is a way for me to circumvent or protect myself against her negativity yet be there for her? She is truly friendless and guidance-less.
VoplySoply - You are so right! Last time I gently tried doing that and it helped 'me' but I don't think it helps her find a solution because I suspect she has closed her mind to solutions and has simply given up to living on a reactionary level...recently a marriage alliance went terribly awry for her and this has made her even more vindictive...I feel for her a lot but do not know what I can do for her...
Saggigirl, you may be interested in reading a book titled "Games People Play" by Eric Berne
Thanks for the recco PH. I did skim through the book years back but then my pov on games people play was pretty different. Maybe I should revisit it to understand it better, now that my whole life pov is different... thank you.